MYTH 1: We NEED to use animals in medical research

Testing drugs on animals does not reliably predict human safety or efficacy

  • This can lead to drugs that are not safe or effective for humans
  • And it can lead to drugs being rejected that might have been safe or effective in humans
  • KEY STAT: 92% of drugs which prove promising in animal trials fail in human clinical trials

Human relevant research methods have been developed which are best placed to study human diseases

  • These can be used to assess the safety and effectiveness of potential new treatments.
  • They include organ-on-chip technology and advanced computer models.

COVID-19 forced regulators to assess what is needed to deliver safe and effective treatments ASAP

  • Regulators removed the requirement to prove efficacy in animals before they went to human trials
  • Human trials were conducted in parallel with – and sometimes ahead of – animal tests
  • This is primarily why vaccine development was so fast

SUMMARY: Animal free research has been proven on many occasions to be safer for understanding human disease and assessing the safety and effectiveness of potential new drugs

Time, money and animals’ lives are still being wasted, with few breakthroughs and a huge amount of suffering.


MYTH 2: Animals are only used when there’s NO ALTERNATIVE

Since 1986 it has been illegal in the UK to test on animals if there is a “scientifically satisfactory alternative”. BUT this doesn’t guarantee animal experiments only happen where no alternatives are available for three main reasons:
The law doesn’t apply to all animals – which means some animals can be used without a license – or justification
  • Researchers need a license – and justification – for using any living vertebrate or cephalopod (octopus, squid, cuttlefish)
  • They don’t need a license for experiments on animals in their foetal, larval or embryonic forms
  • And they don’t need a license to use other invertebrates

It’s the researcher’s duty to demonstrate there’s no alternative when they apply for a licence to conduct animal experiments

  • The licence is approved by inspectors who are not experts in human relevant methods
  • Home Office documents show that researchers treat it as little more than a tick box exercise
  • FACT: In 2020, no animal experiment was refused by the Home Office
  • FACT: In one case a one-word answer was given to justify why there was no alternative to using animals

Current regulatory guidance generates an expectation that new drugs must be tested in two species of animals – often mice or rats, followed by pigs, dogs or monkeys

  • Potential new drugs developed using animal free technologies are tested on animals before human clinical trials take place
  • This is despite substantial evidence that shows animal tests are poor predictors of drug safety and effectiveness in humans

That’s why we are working for regulatory change to ensure the latest cutting-edge technologies can be used instead to save human and animal lives.


MYTH 3: If it was a choice between your child or grandmother and a rat, the choice is always going to be a rat.

This as a false dichotomy because to suggest there are two choices is misleading.  

It is not a question of a rat or your grandma/child.  Rather, it is how can we best develop effective medicines in the 21st century – and that is by using cutting-edge new approaches that are relevant to humans, not animals.

Because despite decades of research using animals, numerous diseases remain poorly understood and lack adequate treatments. That’s because animal tests are poor models of human disease and do not reliably predict the safety or effectiveness of new drugs.

Indeed, around 92% of new drugs entering clinical trials fail, despite having shown promise in preclinical animal tests.

The average cost of developing a successful new drug is estimated to be US$2.6 billion and can take up to 10 years to develop. 

Preclinical studies account for 32% of drug discovery costs, with animal studies comprising much preclinical research. The UK research and development spend in 2017 was £34.8 billion, with 40% spent on basic research which uses many animals and is largely publicly funded.

Yet despite increased funding for drug development, there are not more drugs coming to market. 

In comparison, new approach methods have the potential to reduce drug failure rates and help bring new medicines to market more quickly and at a lower cost.

Just a 10% improvement in predicting failure before initiating expensive and time-consuming clinical trials could save upwards of US $100m in drug development costs.

So we do not have to choose rats over loved ones because effective human relevant research methods exist.  

Animal Free Research UK choose to accelerate their use to save lives humans and animals’ – time and money.


MYTH 4: Animal research still plays an important role in providing vital safety information for potential new medicines.

The results of animal experiments do not reliably predict the safety or effectiveness of new drugs due to fundamental differences between species

FACT: Around 92% of new drugs entering clinical trials fail, despite having shown promise in preclinical animal tests (around one half of those failures are due to unanticipated human toxicity )

Adverse drug reactions kill thousands of people in the UK and costs NHS England billions each year. Tests on human cells and tissues can predict dangerous drug side effects where animal tests and even human trials fail.


Human-based computer models can predict cardiotoxicity (toxicity to the heart) with a higher accuracy than animal research (cardiotoxicity is one of the main causes of withdrawal during drug development).

Human skin-based tests developed by Alycomics Ltd could have predicted the adverse effects seen in the volunteers of the TGN1412 monoclonal antibody clinical trial in 2006.

A recent review article published in Nature  found that that deaths due to adverse drug reactions could be prevented using preclinical models of drug-induced liver injury (which causes one-third of drug withdrawals from the market due to adverse drug reactions).

The risk to people should be minimised as much as possible, but animal tests are not a reliable way of doing this.

Cutting-edge human relevant technologies, such as organ-on-a-chip, are best placed to study human disease and assess the safety and effectiveness of potential new drugs, instead of cruel and misleading animal experiments.


MYTH 5: Animal Free Research UK supports the 3Rs so it is not truly dedicated to ending animal experiments.

At Animal Free Research UK, we believe that experiments on animals are scientifically and ethically unjustifiable, and that pioneering animal free research provides the best chance of finding treatments for human diseases.

Whilst UK law enshrines the principles of the 3Rs – the replacement, reduction and refinement of the use of animals in research, Animal Free Research UK does not endorse the 3Rs.

Our focus is, and always has been, on the complete end of the use of animals in medical research. We only support and fund research which does not use animals and is human-relevant.

Our vision is to create a world where human diseases are cured faster without animal suffering. And over the last 50 years, we have given over £10 million in grants to fund pioneering human relevant research projects into diseases including COVID-19, cancer, brain tumours, diabetes and dementia. Only those projects with the highest scientific calibre and the best potential for the replacement of animals are awarded funding.